Wednesday, September 29, 2010

more details....

The first 2 images are of Delano and Aldrich's Knickerbocker Club at 2 East 62nd St., a building that strikes a delicate note in a neighborhood of imposing houses. D & A succeeded McKim Mead & White as "the" club architects of New York. This 1915 opus is them at their Georgian best. The ironwork here is quite different, albeit equally beautiful as that on neighboring houses. The next 2 shots are of the door to 15 East 62nd St. I like buildings like this; they've got heft. The last shot is of a bracket on the facade of 1 East 62nd St., now a coop containing particularly magnificent rooms.

details, details...

Writing about ironwork on the new Ralph Lauren building up at 72nd and Madison (see the post below) has given me new eyes for the work on fine old Upper East Side houses. The examples above are from a few of the many within a block of my own apartment. The first 2 images are of 11 East 62nd St. Now owned by the Japanese government it was completed in 1900 for a granddaughter of William Henry Vanderbilt and her husband, Count Ernesto Fabbri. Note the wrought iron 'F' in the middle of the balcony. The next 2 shots are of 3 East 64th St., completed in 1903 for Orme Wilson and his wife Carrie (daughter of 'The Mrs.') Astor. How delicious are those iron morning glories twined around the middle element? The last is of an over-door grill at 11 East 64th. The glass is dirty, but the work is lovely.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

...but it's not a duck

This is the new Ralph Lauren store, on the southwest corner of Madison Ave and East 72nd St. in New York. It's been wrapped in black netting for months, and while everybody knew the building would be unique, few of us had any idea of just how unique. I've posted an image of the new building at the top of this post. Directly below is an image of the Fell-Van Rensselaer house on Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia, described at length in several posts below. These are clearly two peas in an (admittedly grandiose) pod. Of course, there's no old house interior inside Ralph Lauren's beautiful new limestone walls; it's a clothing store, not a private mansion. The exterior detail, however, is almost as good as the genuine old stuff, with perhaps one exception...the ironwork. That work is nice, but not in the same league as the vintage work on houses around the corner. The last image is a detail from a house off Fifth Ave on 71st St. It is an eloquent comparison. Still and all, the new Lauren building is beautiful, and really almost looks like a big old house.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

More on Darlington (2 posts below)

These are woodwork details from Darlington, George Crocker's house in Mahwah, New Jersey. It was completed in 1907 and is described 2 posts below. A master carver named John H. Elliott worked on this project for 4 years, and the results are certainly splendid. Elliott was hired by the architect, James Brite, a man about whom I can discover very little. He started as a draftsman at McKim, Mead and White, teamed up with a co-worker named Henry Bacon, and went on to form a partnership called Brite and Bacon. Henry Bacon was the man who designed the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. Supposedly the partnership fell apart because of the excessive amount of time Bacon spent on the memorial. Brite clearly landed on his feet, judging from heavyweight clients like Herbert Pratt and George Crocker, but I'm having difficulty finding anything else he did.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Another James Brite House

The post following this one is of a house called Darlington, in Mahwah, New Jersey. This post concerns a house by the same architect, for a client very much in the same grand category. Herbert L. Pratt (1871-1945) was, among other things, President of the Standard Oil Company of New York, forerunner of today's Exxon-Mobil Corp. In 1912 he commissioned architect James Brite to design this neo-Jacobean mansion overlooking the Long Island Sound just west of Glen Cove. The house, called The Braes and finished in 1914, was originally serviced by a famous complex called Pratt Oval, dedicated to the maintenance of half a dozen Pratt family estates in the immediate area. After Herbert Pratt's death in 1945, a marine engineering school called the Webb Institute bought the house and converted it into a highly competitive naval architectural school. Unlike Darlington (see below) the building has been completely institutionalized. The room in the 3rd image down came from an English house called Rotherwas Court, being demolished at the time The Braes was going up. Pratt's will bequeathed the room to Amherst College.

Monday, September 13, 2010

In my Dreams

It is the honest truth that if I could contrive to live in a place like this, I would. It's called Darlington. The name commemorates a local squire named A.B. Darling, owner of the famous Fifth Avenue Hotel in New York. The house stands in renovated, single family condition in Mahwah, New Jersey on 12.5 of its original 1000 acres. Despite being surrounded by upscale split levels, the site preserves an unexpected degree of integrity. There's still a gatehouse, and a tree lined drive, albeit sandwiched between subdivision backyards. An imposing circle fronts the main entrance, and there's a fairly sweeping lawn out back. The architect was a man named James Brite, formerly employed by McKim Mead and White, and the client was George Crocker, son of railroad mogul Charles Crocker. Either Brite or Crocker must have had English Jacobean mansions on the brain. Completed in 1907, Darlington bears a very strong resemblance to Bramshill House in Hampshire. About fifteen years ago I visited Darlington with friends from Tuxedo. From the moment I set foot inside, I dreamed of living here. What is it about these kinds of houses that stirs my soul? I want to be in them; I want to touch them, and nurture them, and dream in them. Crocker lived here for only 2 years. In 1922 the next owner sold it to developers who planned to make it into a ritzy country club. The scheme ran off the track and the Catholic Church bought it in 1927. It was used as a seminary until 1986 when another developer bought it for around $9 million. Unlike many houses of this scale - in areas far more elite than Mahwah - Darlington has survived in amazingly intact condition. It is now being marketed to single family buyers for $25 million. And if I could, I most certainly would.

Saturday, September 4, 2010


Tucked into the low hills of the Hudson Valley, is the little village of Millbrook, where I have spent the majority of my adult life. Millbrook fancies itself an elite place, and I suppose that's true. However, it is a very small place. When I find myself exploring, say, the north shore of Long Island, as I have in recent weeks, I realize just how small it is. "Inisfada" - perversely pronounced "in-ish-FAH-dah" and meaning "Long Island" in Gaelic - is the sort of house that puts little Millbrook in proper perspective. It is a perfectly immense building, still standing on 33 of its original 225 acres on Searingtown Road in Manhasset. Nicholas F. Brady (1878-1930), grand-uncle of the one-time U.S. Treasury Secretary of the same name, built it between 1916 and 1920. Brady was very rich, very upwardly mobile, and very Catholic. He died before he was sixty, and seven years later his widow gave the house to the Jesuits, who own it today.